MANILA - A former House Speaker believes the Duterte administration's push for Charter change has a good chance of succeeding despite earlier failed efforts to revise the Constitution.
Jose De Venecia, who is now a special envoy to President Rodrigo Duterte, recalled that under his leadership during the Arroyo administration, Congress became "very close" to changing the Constitution until the Supreme Court halted it with a vote of 8-7.
"I think properly explained with a nationwide information campaign, I feel this has a good chance of succeeding. But it must not be presented in a way where people will be suspicious that there is an attempt to prolong anyone’s tenure in office," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"It should be presented as a normal recourse or desire of the people of the Philippines and of the political parties to achieve a restructuring of the system," he said.
De Venecia said there may always be suspicions of ulterior motives behind lawmakers' push for a change in the Constitution, but he believes Duterte "has the finest intentions in making these proposals."
"After all, he’s mid-70s and he’s not very healthy," he said.
Duterte, he added, would not even entertain suggestions of dissolving Congress and vesting legislative powers to the President until the first federal congress is convened.
Sitting legislators will always be suspect for wanting to stay in power for a long time and taking advantages of the system, but De Venecia said the dynamic Philippine society would not allow any official to stay in power "if you are not able to satisfy the expectations of people."
Meanwhile, De Venecia also backs calls for a shift to a unicameral legislation because the "2 houses of Congress always competing, fighting each other is delaying progress."
He added, moves to shift to a parliamentary system instead of a presidential system are also good because "presidential elections are very, very expensive" and it "divides the whole country."
De Venecia also raised another structure, where a unitary form is retained, but the regions are empowered with "appropriate powers, benefits, participation."
A federal system of government, meanwhile, may also be subject to several suspicions, but De Venecia noted that several countries have been "successful" with this goverment, such as Malaysia, Australia, India, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States of America.
"We should not close our eyes to the advantages of the federal system because it has worked well in so many countries in the world," he said.
MIDTERM ELECTIONS SHOULD PUSH THROUGH
The 2019 elections should not be postponed even as the government seeks to change the charter to shift to a federal format, said De Venecia.
Convening the houses of Congress for a constituent assembly and deliberations thereafter can be finished in about 120 to 180 days because extensive studies about it have been made, he said.
"Why should they prolong discussions for a long period to such a degree as to necessitate consideration of the postponement of elections because of the need for a longer period for discussion and debate," he said.
"I think there’s enough time frame within the system to complete the process of restructuring. I think we should proceed with the elections next year. There’s no need for a postponement," he added.